To Biarritz on a bike – Part 2

Hello and welcome to the latest blog from The Olivia Rose Diaries on 31st March 2023.

Grey skies over the Adour River

We have been following the Adour River since we left home and it has for the most part been quite a small waterway. Closer to the Atlantic, it turned into a much bigger affair as you can see from the picture above.

Sunday 26th March should have been a relatively easy day for us, with a flat, well-maintained cycle trail right by the river, only 40 km to Bayonne and our next stop for the night. This was our fourth day on this trip but already we were learning how effortlessly the weather can confound expectations. By mid-morning tiny wavelets on the water had grown into substantial white horses, the wind hard on their heels.  Towering plantations of bamboo that lined the trail thrashed wildly in 50km gusts and we battled doggedly on, heads down, leg muscles heavy and unresponsive against the onslaught. The wind is a restless fellow, always wanting to be somewhere else, anywhere but where he is, and you only need to spend a few hours in his company to realise how weak the human race is when pitted against such an elemental being.

We arrived at our B & B by mid-afternoon and braced ourselves for a noisy night. The wind speeds rose to gusts of 95km, howling around the eaves of our little attic room, with bins being tossed down the street and metal railings from a nearby building site clattering to the ground. By the next morning things had calmed down and so it was back on our bikes for a day exploring the two cities of Biarritz and Bayonne.

Biarritz has the reputation for being a glamorous, up-market resort and, as we cycled past endless beaches of golden sand we could well appreciate how busy it would be in high season. It’s also renowned as a surfer’s paradise but, although the waves still looked impressive to us, there were no signs of any surfers.

Stormy seas at the Rocher de la Vierge
The only way into this little harbour is between the cliffs and the stone walls – not for the faint-hearted!
You can make out the high-rise flats in the distance.

Bayonne was only 10 km away and yet it had a completely different feel to it. The architecture is typical of the Basque region, colourful timber-fronted buildings and narrow medieval streets that we found to be more inviting than the casinos, designer shops and expensive sea-front residences that characterised Biarritz.

They started packing away the tables just as we arrived – no crêpes for us that day.

Now it was time to turn our heads for home, roughly two hundred kilometres away,  following another river for part of the route, the Gave d’Oleron.  We swapped our seascape for rolling hills and hidden villages, the Pyrenees coming ever closer.

Below are a selection of pictures that give you an idea of the scenery that unfolded around us.

We spent one night in the the town of Oleron Sainte-Marie, a good choice not just because of its location, framed against the backdrop of the mountains, but also because it was home to a Llindt factory outlet shop. Never have I seen so much chocolate gathered in one place. It was a chocoholics heaven but the cruel truth was that our panniers had no space left for such indulgences. We could have foregone our normal picnic lunch and simple pasta meal for the evening, dining instead on chocolate balls, chocolate bars, and chocolate Easter bunnies, and indeed I did consider this for a second, but we were expending too much energy not to eat properly. We contented ourselves with a tin of Llindt hot chocolate and regretfully cycled on.

No words needed – dreams are made of this.

Almost before we knew it, we found ourselves in familiar territory and, nine days after we left, we arrived back at Le Shack. We had covered 437 km, or 273 miles, with an overall climb of 2,285 metres. We had spent eight nights in a delightful selection of B & B’s,  all of them a room in someone’s house, some offering a small self-contained unit with a kitchen whilst other times we had the use of the owner’s kitchen. I think I have spoken more French during this trip than at any other time since I have been here, talking both to our convivial hosts about their lives and also to people we met on the way. On our last but one day, as we sat at the edge of a field of newly cut hay munching contentedly on tuna and cucumber sandwiches and drinking in the views of the mountains, the farmer stopped his truck alongside us and asked if we had noticed how sweet the grass smelled.

Picnic spots don’t come much better than this.

He told us that this was the first cut of the year, and that he hoped to get at least four or five more crops from these fields to make up for last year, when the drought had badly affected the harvests. Given that the rivers are low and that parts of France are already on a drought-alert the signs for this year are even worse than for last and everybody knows it.

As I write this blog I am sitting in our lovely cabin and the rain has finally arrived. The daffodils have all come to an end but the bluebells are out and we have the odd tulip flower beginning to show. How do I feel about our cycling adventure now that it is over?

I would say that my feelings have in some ways mirrored the ups and downs of the road. There have been times, as I puffed my way up yet another hill wincing at the pain in my seat-bones and realising that in fact it will never go away no matter how seasoned a cyclist I might become, when I wondered why on earth I was putting myself through this. At other times, perhaps free-wheeling joyously down the other side of that same hill, appreciating the beauty of the sun glinting on the river, or listening to the birds singing all around me and feeling at one with the natural world,  I knew exactly why I was doing it.

There is no doubt it has been physically challenging but that is balanced against a sense of achievement in doing what we set out to do. And then there is the rhythm of the road, the simplicity of getting up every morning and having nothing else to think about other than getting on your bike and cycling, which offers such a balm to a busy mind. I have no doubt we will do another trip, indeed Michael is already thinking of new routes, perhaps for September depending on how our summer season on Olivia Rose turns out.

I would like to think that I could enjoy a rest day tomorrow, but it will have to wait until Sunday. Tomorrow morning we shall get back in that saddle, cycle up the hill and buy some fresh bread and provisions for the weekend. No rest for the wicked!

Hope you are all well and see you again soon.


18 thoughts on “To Biarritz on a bike – Part 2

    1. Tracey is that you? I’ve just read your wonderful blogs and it is you! I hadn’t made the connection.I must admit I belatedly thought it had to be the Gromit contingent as we don’t know anyone else who would wave so wildly, on your way for the Friday visit to Ev’s family I assume? Sorry I didn’t wave back – what a slog! Head down and trying not to get knocked off by lorries.
      See you before you leave hopefully.


  1. My goodness, what an achievement, well done. You seem to have had a mixture of winds and blue skies but at least you weren’t in the blazing sun, that would have been worse! Sorry the panniers were too full for the chocolate!


  2. I admire your rugged determination, completing all those miles. Kudos!
    The sea video was lovely (I miss the smell and sound of the ocean, it’s been years), Bayonne looked charming and the Lindt factory boggles my mind with all those choices!
    The spring countryside looked so inviting, esp. for a picnic and snooze afterwards in the sun. 🙂


      1. I think support vehicles have to cook three hearty meals a day, plus cups of tea and chocolate biscuits and homemade cakes for those who are toiling up hills. Sounds an excellent plan!!


  3. Well done! It must be a very rewarding feeling to have done all those km. Cycling is all about ups and downs, physically and mentally. I’m getting inspired to break out my bike again, although it’s about 10 years since I did any serious cycling. The spring countryside looks lovely, although it’s still far too dry. You must be fabulously fit after that!


  4. Well done you two, we take our hats off to you both. But fancy leaving those delicious chocolates behind 😋😋 Hope you manage to get a little rest-up before your next journey. Take care.


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